This year, the world marks Africa Day under extremely difficult circumstances as we grapple with the global COVID-19 pandemic, which threatens to derail progress by African countries towards meeting the Sustainable Development Goals and the targets set out in the African Union’s Agenda 2063.
African countries have demonstrated commendable leadership through a swift and coordinated response. The AU established a task force to develop a continent-wide strategy and appointed special envoys to mobilize international support. Its Peace and Security Council has also taken steps to counter the negative impact of COVID-19 on the implementation of critical peace agreements and reconciliation efforts. The Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention established a response fund, while African Member States undertook robust measures to contain the spread of the virus and mitigate the socio-economic impacts.
I welcome the African Union’s support for my call for a global ceasefire to fight the COVID-19 pandemic – an imperative that also reflects the AU’s 2020 theme: “Silencing the Guns: Creating Conducive Conditions for Africa’s Development.” Armed groups in Cameroon, Sudan and South Sudan have responded to the call and declared unilateral ceasefires. I implore other armed movements and governments in Africa to do likewise. I also welcome the support of African countries for my call for peace in the home, and an end to all forms of violence, including against women and girls.
About 20 African countries are scheduled to hold elections this year, some of which will be postponed due to the pandemic, with potential consequences for stability and peace. I urge African political actors to engage in inclusive and sustained political dialogue to ease tensions around elections and uphold democratic practices.
The United Nations has just issued a policy brief outlining the impacts of the pandemic on Africa. We are calling for debt relief and action to maintain food supplies, protect jobs and cushion the continent against lost income and export earnings. African countries, like everyone, everywhere, should also have quick, equal and affordable access to any eventual vaccine and treatment. African governments, like all those around the world, can also use this moment to shape new policies that bolster health systems, improve social protection and pursue climate-friendly pathways. Targeting measures to those employed in the informal sector, the vast majority of whom are women, will be an important step to recovery, as will leveraging women’s full participation and leadership. The inclusion and leadership of young people will also be crucial every step of the way.
On Africa Day, I reaffirm my total solidarity with the people and Governments of Africa in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic and paving the way for recovery and a better future for all.